In The Guardian today, there’s an article that lists “20 big questions in science.” If you want to be famous (at least in some circles), answer one of the questions. Of course, there are some ‘answers’ to the questions already. Or maybe it’d be more accurate to say that there are some hypotheses or that there is some ‘general knowledge’ in the domain of the question. However, there don’t seem to be any definitive answers, yet.
Here are the questions with a few thoughts after some of them:
1. What is the universe made of?
2. How did life begin?
3. Are we alone in the universe?
If pressed to give an answer on number three, I’d probably say something to the effect of: given how big the universe is, mathematically speaking, isn’t it more likely that there is other life out there somewhere than isn’t?
4. What makes us human?
5. What is consciousness?
On number five, I remember reading a very intriguing article in The Atlantic this past winter that explored the question: what does it mean to be conscious? It approached this question in the context of anesthesia. If this question interests you, this is one way to delve into the topic.
6. Why do we dream?
While there are many theories on why we dream, one of my favorite ways for interpreting dreams is through Jeremy Taylor’s method. This method also outside the context of dreaming.
7. Why is there stuff?
8. Are there other universes?
9. Where do we put all the carbon?
10. How do we get more energy from the sun?
Number ten, while also making you famous, would likely also make you extremely wealthy unless you went the route of Jonas Salk and polio.
11. What’s so weird about prime numbers?
12. How do we beat bacteria?
13. Can computers keep getting faster?
14. Will we ever cure cancer?
15. When can I have a robot butler?
16. What’s at the bottom of the ocean?
On number sixteen: when you realize that 95% of the ocean is unexplored, it sort of gets you curious about what might be down there. More than that, 99% of the Earth is water. There’s a lot we don’t know about the planet we inhabit.
17. What’s at the bottom of a black hole?
18. Can we live for ever?
19. How do we solve the population problem?
20. Is time travel possible?
On number twenty: if this turns out to be true, that would make for some interesting ethical and moral dilemmas.